Everything about the Relay attack

Everything about the Relay attack

Relay attack is one of the most important concerns of society since it allows criminals to steal the valuable property of individuals, such as an automobile even in the era of advanced technologies. However, the need to use such methodology in crime is related to the development of technologies. So, it is no longer surprising that we own high-tech devices with features that ensure comfortable daily life but we have to pay the price for it. That is the case with keyless vehicles, you love and enjoy them, but you need to keep a close eye on them because of their vulnerabilities to attacks. What kind of challenges you may face? What is the smartest solution to those problems? Those are the questions you may want to answer. 

Let’s start and discuss what a relay attack means, what governments and manufacturers do to prevent such crime, and what is the current situation in terms of statistics. Keep on reading to learn more about the smartest way to protect yourself. 

What is a relay attack?  

It is vehicle theft, involving two criminals who use a specialized tool that receives the signal from the key at a particular distance and transfers it to the second part of the device that fools the automobile into thinking that the fob is nearby. Hence, the automobile is unlocked. All that happened in a blink of an eye. 

The point is that this technology doesn’t threaten only automobiles. It can be dangerous for contactless credit cards and computer Windows. You use those cards for house doors or ATMs, right? As a rule, you do not use a PIN. Touching a card reader is enough. Wrongdoers can steal your credentials when a terminal thinks that it communicates with the original card. A similar mechanism works when you surf the internet and visit various websites. It is possible because of a Windows vulnerability. The network authentication protocol does not authenticate the server, the attacker places himself between the client and server, so he hijacks the data packets transmitted between them. 

The features of a particular technology encouraged all that attacks. Namely, they are RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (Near field communication), which allows data exchange between devices that are nearby. 

Mind the difference

You may confuse and think that all are the same. However, a Relay attack is different from a Man-in-the-middle attack – that is a cyberattack, where hackers secretly place themselves between a user and an application and alter the communication between them to their advantage. There is another type – the replay attack. It is a cybercrime in which original data transmission is maliciously or fraudulently repeated or delayed. 

So, the key to avoiding such crimes is strengthening cyber security. Nowadays it is one of the biggest challenges in every field of life. Now, we focus on modern automobiles and the dangers their owners face in terms of safety. In the following paragraph, let’s focus on keyless technology and its vulnerabilities.

keyless cars are in danger 

Firstly, keyless technology was meant to improve people’s lives. It allows owners to gain access to their automobiles without possessing the physical key. It is enough to be in a particular range, having the key fob in your pocket and the auto unlocked. Besides locking and unlocking features, starting the engine is also possible. Moreover, manufacturers offer multifunctional fobs with “hidden” features such as managing windows, mirrors, and so on. As you see, you get comfort and convenience but you suffer from the lack of protection. Why does it happen?

According to Wikipedia, a remote entry system works as follows: “When a button is pushed, it sends a coded signal by radio waves to a receiver unit in the car, which locks or unlocks the door. Most RKEs operate at a frequency of 315 MHz”. The range is varied according to manufacturers. In some cases, the auto uses Bluetooth to relay signals from smartphones. 

According to the insurance company LV=, insurance claims was increasing by 20% between 2016 and 2019. Luxury models, such as Tesla, Lexus, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar, and Land Rover are targets. 

According to Tracker’s data, the most stolen model is the Range Rover Sport, both in 2019 and 2020. It seems that the global pandemic doesn’t stop crime, moreover, it encourages thieves. This fact indicates that location is not a barrier for criminals when it comes to keyless technology. 

As NHTSA (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) says, the cost of stolen vehicles in the United States comprised $6 billion in 2019. 

Dailymail reporters’ group purchased the tool priced at £257, which allowed them to break into a £100,000 Range Rover in two minutes. Believe it or not, this gadget is widely available on eBay and Amazon. 

As you can see, a relay attack is a reason for taking serious measures for prevention. Before it all comes down to individuals, the biggest responsibility is on automakers and businesses which produce such products. People use them for malicious and fraudulent purposes. Needless to say, the government should take responsibility to regulate all of this. In the following paragraph, we will discuss the share of responsibilities.  

 Responsibility – is it fairly shared? 

Let’s start with the positions of online shops, where this unethical product is for sale. For example, An eBay spokesman said: ‘The device is widely available and is advertised as having a broad range of uses. We have not been advised of any restrictions on its sale.’ As you see, even authoritative online stores avoid responsibility. They justify their position with the fact that such devices have various useful functions like testing and they do not support using them for malicious purposes. The same happens with Amazon, all of those shops claim that they support legal usage of this gadget. 

 Youtube – the most popular video platform is full of video tutorials, teaching using this unethical gadget. How can they justify that? As their spokesman says, they have their policy and if it is violated they remove videos. 

As for the manufacturer’s responsibility, some of them seriously think about this issue and strengthened measures against relay theft. Several famous manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz put motion sensors in their keyless fobs that stop them from sending out a signal when they’re static for a certain period. That was the reason why those brands passed the test of relay attack and got “superior” in the ratings. As automotive experts suggest, it is a temporary solution and there is a necessity to change more things for further protection

Finally, what does the government do? One of the most active participants is NHTSA, (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an agency of the U.S. federal government, part of the Department of Transportation.) which systematically leads campaigns against auto crime and offers ways to prevent it. Apart from the campaigns, they have regulations for automakers. They require them to label components and replacement parts so authorities can trace and recover stolen parts. Moreover, they encourage manufacturers to install passive anti-theft devices.

Take urgent measures 

The most popular recommendations for avoiding to become of such a crime are as follows:

  • Park in well-lit areas. If it is possible, use a garage for parking.
  • Keep fobs wisely. Do not put it near the front door or windows. 
  • Do not leave your valuables on the display. They can be the additional motivation for attackers.
  • Check your owner’s manual and learn if it is possible to deactivate a keyless system.

Those are very helpful prevention tips. However, you may need more than advice. For example, you may search for an advanced alternative that will offer you flawless performance at any rate. If so, I have good news for you. 

A Secure FOB

It is an innovative and unique chip that works against the relay attack and prevents signal amplification. The electronic chip is user-friendly, just install it in the fob and enjoy the multiple benefits it offers. A Secure FOB has a motion sensor that deactivates the fob after 3 minutes of being motionless. When motionless, the chip disconnects the battery to make sure that it does not send radio signals without the necessity. So, it acts as a blocker, which means it is the best tool against signal extenders. In case of any question, please do not hesitate to check the services or reach out.

Takeaway 

So, you get comprehensive information about the relay attack, its characteristics, dangers, and solutions that are widely accepted. So, now it’s your turn to begin thinking about the ways of defending yourself. Do not ignore the danger of becoming the victim of a crime that may cost you thousands of dollars when you can invest in a protection solution that offers flawless performance and enjoy a safe ride.

Back to blog